Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 37, Issue 4, pp 726–732

How can reward contribute to efficient self-control? Reinforcement of task-defined responses diminishes ego-depletion

Original Paper


We examined whether reinforcement learning of habitual actions diminishes ego depletion after a cognitive control task. Participants performed the Stroop task after a card selection task, in which one group was reinforced to respond to colors in the Stroop task (Stroop-color group) while another group was reinforced to respond to colors not in the Stroop task (non-Stroop-color group). We measured ego depletion in terms of decrement in endurance on an isometric handgrip task after the Stroop task. The Stroop-color group exhibited less decrease in their isometric handgrip endurance compared to the non-Stroop-color group. These results suggest that the former needed less effort for cognitive control during conflict processing, as reinforcement learning make task-defined response habitual. This finding provides a new perspective on the role of reward in cognitive control.


Ego depletion Reinforcement learning Cognitive control Stroop task Isometric handgrip 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Kyoto UniversityKyoto-shiJapan

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